I used to do a “state of the church address” each January. I haven’t been as consistent with these recently, but wanted to share some reflections on the church as we enter a new year, especially given the unique challenges of the past two years. To make it simple, here are three sets of three: 3 things to be encouraged by, 3 things to look forward to, and 3 things to pray for.
Things to be encouraged by:
- That we have stayed incredibly faithful and united as a church through a turbulent two years. I have noted this before, but I am continually amazed at where we are today, given the many opportunities for division, distrust, bitterness, and disunity over the past two years. I am continually asked, with great concern and empathy, how I’m faring as a pastor. And while this season has certainly had some unique challenges, overall, I am very encouraged by the loving, faithful, humble unity displayed by Roots Church.
- That we regularly have guests at church. After we moved into our new building in September of 2019, we were just beginning to have guests visit us on Sundays when COVID hit, and few people were looking to find a church. But the last 6-8 months have seen visitors on most Sundays, with many returning, and many committing and plugging in. There are potentially 10 families that may take the upcoming Roots 101 course.
- That we are financially self-sufficient, no longer dependent on outside support. Incredibly, our monthly giving for 2021 averages out to almost exactly what our monthly budget is. I think this means we’re no longer a church plant?! To see not just that God has provided for us these past 4+ years, but how God has provided for us is truly encouraging.
Things to look forward to:
- Baptisms! We have always done baptisms at Family Camp in the summer. While this has been exciting, it is not very regular, nor very convenient for those not at camp. We are looking forward to having baptisms on the calendar more regularly, and to celebrating the baptisms of children, youth and adults, as God leads. First scheduled baptism date is February 27th.
- 2-minute testimonies. We recently began creating space in our Sunday services for sharing what God has done, or is doing, in people’s lives. We have received much feedback about how encouraging these times have been, and look forward to more of them. By way of reminder, these are brief (2-3 minutes or less) testimonies of what God is doing, for the sake of encouraging the church and glorifying God. They can cover God’s work over a lifetime, or an individual experience/event, and even just a few sentences is sufficient. And if you’d rather not share yourself, you are welcome to write something up for someone else to read.
- Fleshing out the benefits of membership. One of the most encouraging and helpful and healthy things we’ve done as a church (in my estimate) is practice church membership. However, the past two years of isolation and limited gatherings and few people checking out churches has made this difficult: we haven’t done Roots 101 as frequently, we haven’t had membership meetings as frequently. And this has taken its toll on our experiencing the benefits of membership. As we settle back into more “normal” life rhythms, I look forward to communicating (through Roots 101) and fleshing out (through members meetings and more) the benefits of membership, and being encouraged through that.
Things to pray for:
- Pray that God would continue to bear fruit in and through us, as we continue to give ourselves to his means of grace: the regular hearing and applying of his word, celebrating baptisms and communion together, laboring in prayer for one another, and regularly gathering in order to love, encourage and exhort one another. May we continue to trust God for when and how much fruit he bears, and continue steadfastly through seasons of both encouragement and discouragement.
- Pray for opportunities to share the gospel with others, and for God to bear the fruit of conversion. May we have a greater burden and sense of urgency in telling of the grace, goodness and glory of God in Jesus, and inviting others to respond. As always, we encourage you to pray and look for these opportunities in your own life, including by simply inviting others to church.
- Pray that the pastor/elders would lead and shepherd with joy (Heb. 13:17), preach and teach “with complete patience” (2 Tim. 4:2), and “pay careful attention to” and “care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28). This is our desire as elders, but we would covet your prayers and holding us accountable in this.